A strong earthquake struck western Japan on Monday, prompting tsunami warnings and evacuation orders, leaving people trapped under collapsed buildings and disrupting power and mobile phone service in Ishikawa Prefecture, the quake’s epicenter, Japanese officials said. Announced.
Initial reports suggested that the quake did not cause the large tsunami or death toll that was initially feared, but authorities warned that large aftershocks could occur over the coming week and especially in the coming days. I was warned that there would be.
According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, the earthquake occurred on the Noto Peninsula at around 4:10 p.m. and had a magnitude of 7.6. Police said at least six people were killed in Ishikawa Prefecture as a result of the earthquake. The quake was much weaker than the magnitude 8.9 quake that struck Japan in 2011, triggering a tsunami that killed thousands and sparked a nuclear crisis at the Fukushima power plant.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi said Monday’s earthquake left at least six people trapped under rubble in Ishikawa Prefecture, but many more were feared to be trapped or injured. Officials in the city said they were overwhelmed by the number of people seeking help, with one fire station receiving more than 50 reports of collapsed buildings, NHK reported.
The Japan Meteorological Agency initially issued a major tsunami warning, saying waves could reach up to 5 meters, or 16 feet, in the Noto Peninsula bordering the Sea of Japan. They ordered residents to immediately evacuate to higher ground.
But a few hours later, the government lowered the warning and said the maximum wave height was expected to be 3 meters (about 10 feet). By Tuesday morning, the tsunami warning had been downgraded again to an advisory.
The largest waves were recorded immediately after the quake at Wajima Port, reaching about 4 feet, public broadcaster NHK reported. North Korea also issued a tsunami warning, and Russia also issued a tsunami warning for parts of Sakhalin Island, near Japan’s northern Pacific coast. South Korea reported tsunami waves up to 1.5 feet.
Japan’s Japan Meteorological Agency said the depth of this quake was very shallow, which tends to increase the earthquake’s risk. Ishikawa prefectural authorities initially reported no major damage to “critical facilities,” but the fire department said it was still confirming damage to homes and other structures.
The earthquake occurred while Japan was still grappling with the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear crisis.
After the 2011 earthquake, tens of thousands of people were evacuated from towns and rural areas surrounding the factory, and some have yet to return. Cleanup of the area around the Fukushima plant is still in its early stages, and last summer the government announced it would begin releasing treated radioactive wastewater into the ocean, alarming China and South Korea.
Officials with Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority said there were no signs of anything unusual at the radiation measuring station at the Shiga nuclear power plant in Ishikawa Prefecture on Japan’s west coast after Monday’s earthquake.
The earthquake left tens of thousands of homes in Ishikawa Prefecture crushed under collapsed buildings and without power. NHK reported that medical workers in the port city of Wajima were treating patients in a hospital parking lot.
Residents warned that there was still a risk of landslides and building collapse due to aftershocks. The government announced that 19 earthquakes with epicenters on the Noto Peninsula have already been recorded.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hayashi said at a press conference that the Ishikawa Prefectural Governor has requested the dispatch of the Self-Defense Forces to the area, and all units of the Self-Defense Forces are on standby to assist in rescue operations.
Due to the earthquake, Shinkansen trains were stopped and some expressways were closed to traffic. Japanese airline All Nippon Airways turned back four planes heading to airports in the affected areas, and Japan Airlines canceled most of its flights to Ishikawa and Niigata.
Because of its high frequency of earthquakes, Japan has made its buildings some of the most resilient in the world over the past century. It can withstand large-scale earthquakes and maintains its functionality even immediately after an earthquake.
Through investment, government mandates, and an engineering culture that pays close attention to seismic risks, Japan has been able to reduce the death toll even in devastating earthquakes.
Earthquakes in Mino and Owari provinces at the end of the 19th century and the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, which killed more than 140,000 people, prompted research into stronger buildings and the introduction of new building standards. Over the next several decades, each major earthquake in Japan prompted further improvements in practices and regulations.
Report contributor: Emma Bouvola, Shashank in Bengali, Hisako Ueno and Jin Yuyoung.